New research suggests prevention from infections and reducing stress related illness might be as simple as a hug from a trusted person. The findings of this latest research were published in the journal Psychological Science, and finds that the physical act of hugging is associated with protection from the effects of depression and anxiety as well as having less stress-induced infections and severe illness symptoms.
The researching team studied hugging as an example of social support, because hugs are typically a marker of having a more intimate and close relationship with another person. People who have ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses and infection. However, in the study, hugging reduced the conflict as well as minimizing stress related illness. The interesting fact is what hugging represents to the participants. They stated that hugging made them feel more connected, more supported, more validated and intimate with the hugger, which had a direct effect on their immune system. The researchers went on to say that those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection.
The stress of the holidays adds more opportunities to become overwhelmed and stressed. If you’re on a health kick, watching your diet and exercising, you may want to add hugging to your daily activities. Here are six ways to protect your health and relationships with hugs:
- Studies show people who are hugged regularly by their close friends and family have reduced blood pressure, lower heart rates and feel more connected to one another.
- People who are contented in their marriages report frequent hugging and non-sexual touching.
- Couples who report hugging or cuddling frequently also report feeling more emotionally connected to their partner. They also reported feeling more secure than non-hugging/minimal touch couples.
- Ten minutes of hand holding or hugging greatly reduced couples’ reported stress and the harmful effects of stress on their body.
- The release of oxytocin in the body from hugging helps foster a healthy immune system.
- Children who grow up watching their parents hug feel more secure and perform better in school.
As you go about your holiday shopping, don’t forget the most important gift you can give, the gift of belonging, being valued and mostly being emotionally connected to your loved ones. Something as simple as a hug can provide those feelings and it doesn’t cost you a thing.